by Graham Odom
I am dangerous. I am that most lethal of men. I am an Irishman who learned to make his own alcohol.
OK, so two quick things: One, that's not really as "dangerous" as it is "self-destructive." Also, I may not be so much "Irish" as I'm just a ginger, and like all gingers, I have a self-declared spiritual connection to Ireland that allows me to excuse a love for potatoes, shade, Celtic punk music and hating people who wear green on St. Patrick's Day.
I've taken up brewing as a hobby; it compliments my love of cooking and my love of drinking beer. Also, I have vague suspicions that my fiancé did it to get me out of her hair. I received my homebrew kit a few years ago for Christmas after I showed her I possessed three basic skills: enough cooking skill to be able to not burn down the house when left unsupervised by a grownup; a passable ability to follow directions without Ikea-like androgynous figures to guide me through the process; and too much time on my hands.
My brewing kit came in the perfect wrapping. Two presents, one obviously a tightly wrapped six-pack and the other a mysteriously large box containing ... well, who knows what it contained? Could it be a TV with very weird dimension? A tiny prostitute? Half of a normal sized-prostitute? ANYTHING.
I opened the six-pack, only to find all the bottles already empty. My fiancé having a strange sense of humor, I just assumed she got drunk and wrapped up the dirty dishes for me to throw away (she likes being elaborate sometimes). The second box contained ... a bucket. I looked at her and instantly realized that this was part of some elaborate janitorial fantasy she had. Hey, whatever works. Before I had the chance to tell her I was willing to get some OSHA compliant no-slip boots, she explained to me that she had purchased me a beer-making kit. It wasn't half a prostitute nice, but it was pretty nice.
While the gift was awesome, I was kind of overwhelmed by the gravitas of the gift. "Me? Brewing? Surely I will screw this up." To be fair, I also thought this when I was given sea monkeys and when I got my first date (for the record, the sea monkeys did die and the first date only died from embarrassment).
It was in the homebrewer's bible, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, that I found comforting wisdom for the new homebrewer: "Relax. Don't Worry. Have a home-brew." Fantastic advice. One, in that you probably shouldn't worry so much. Two, what has Bobby McFerrin done lately? Three: Brewing, like drinking is best done while drinking.
Luckily, the kits are made for the beginner, and despite some notable mistakes on my part (trying to cook 5 gallons of liquid in a 2 gallon pot, for instance), the first batch turned out splendidly.
That was three years and many awesome batches of beer ago.